Thursday, October 19, 2023

Validity of CIF bylaw governing recruiting takes a hit by recent rulings


Have recent decisions by State CIF Appeals judges rendered ineffective a bylaw that defines the prohibition of the recruiting of student athletes, pre-enrollment contact and undue influence by offending schools?

Bylaw 510 is the part of the California State Federation’s (CIF) constitution that defines recruiting of athletes at one school by another school, which is not allowed. A recent decision by CIF involved a football player transferring from Sheldon to Grant. He was ruled ineligible by the Sac-Joaquin Section of the CIF in August for the entire 2023 season citing Bylaw 510 and other infractions.

But that player, Devin Green, played in Grant High School’s 82-0 win over Kennedy Oct. 13. He scored four touchdowns on just five carries that night.

Green, a senior, had played the past three football seasons at Sheldon for coach Chris Nixon. That night was his debut in Pacer blue and gold.

Earlier this year he made the decision to attend the Natomas school for his senior season while he and his family continued to live in the attendance area of Sheldon. If the family had moved into Grant’s attendance area, Green would have likely been eligible on day one of the 2023 season, according to CIF bylaws governing move of residence.

But, in August his transfer request to Grant was denied by the Section because of evidence they had that indicated violation of its bylaws which dictate what constitutes pre-enrollment contact and undue influence by a school on a student/athlete attending another school.

One piece of evidence was a social media video from May 6, 2023 taken in a locker room at Grant showed two male students tried to rip a Sheldon Huskies t-shirt in two before Green himself came to take the shirt away.

One of the Grant students then said in the video, “We’ve got Devin Green.” At that time Green was still a student at Sheldon.

But, that wasn’t the first indication Green was planning on taking his talents to Grant.

An April, 2023, post on “X” (Twitter) indicated Green was a football player at Grant, but at that time he was still a student at Sheldon. That is something which is prohibited by Bylaw 510.

Yet, according to the Section website, Green’s family appealed that August decision by the Sac-Joaquin Section and a CIF State Appeals judge overturned the transfer denial on Oct. 13. He played that night for the Pacers, seven games into the 2023 season.

That even came after a three-person Sac-Joaquin Section appeal panel earlier upheld Section commissioner Mike Garrison’s decision to rule Green ineligible for the season.

Last school year El Camino basketball player Kiku Parker requested to transfer, also to Grant. It was denied by Section commissioner Garrison citing evidence of violation of bylaw 510 and other alleged infractions.

That, too, was overturned by a State CIF Appeals judge. Those appeals are held in private meetings and, thus, unavailable to the press.

A request by the Citizen to the State CIF office for a copy of the appeal judge’s decision on Green along with any other paperwork submitted by the Greens and/or Grant High School for their basis for an appeal has not been answered as of press time.

Is Bylaw 510 now valid?

So now, in a legal sense, the validity of CIF bylaw 510 might be under question. Glen Guenard, an Elk Grove attorney, said that in organizations ruled by a set of bylaws precedents generally are the rule until they are overturned and then that becomes the precedents. Thus, enforcement of 510 in the future will probably be harder to implement.

Without seeing the CIF Appeal judge’s ruling it’s hard to say exactly why these two cases were overturned, Guenard added.

“Right now what it sounds like by this particular judge is that, yeah, you can appeal it and if there are certain factors we can overturn it and I suspect they found the rule wasn’t really violated because there wasn’t enough sufficient evidence,” he said. “Initially, there may have been, but the person (making the appeal) presented some evidence they weren’t recruited.”

The ire of opposing coaches

This case has raised the ire of many a football coach around Elk Grove. Bothered by this decision is Nixon, the Sheldon football coach.

“You have a Section rule on a bylaw and they you have the State overturn that ruling and this isn’t the first time, we’ve seen it twice,” Nixon said. “What does that say? That the State has not trained its Section commissioners well enough as to how to rule on this bylaw? Or is this bylaw just ineffective? It seems to me (Bylaw 510) is very clear. But, it must not if we have a Section ruling one way and a State overruling them.”

Pleasant Grove’s Josh Crabtree had a unique viewpoint: “Without knowing the specifics on any of these cases, it’s hard to not to watch everything happening in our section and wonder if the horse is finally out of the barn. If high school athletics, as we knew it, is finally dead,” he texted the Citizen.

Crabtree added as an example another unique ruling of last week by the Section. A player his team opposed earlier this season in the Christian Brothers game, Ezekiel Castex, is now playing for Rocklin.

“Again, I don’t know any of the circumstances around any of these moves, but it’s hard not to feel like the set of rules many of us thought we were operating under are on a scrap heap somewhere…and we never got the memo,” Crabtree said.

“That’s something in my 27 years in California coaching high school football I’ve never seen that before,” Granite Bay head coach Joe Cattolico said of the Castex transfer. His Grizzlies play Rocklin this Friday.

According to the Section website, Castex’ family made a valid change of residence to the Rocklin area and was approved to play for the Thunder Oct. 10.

Cattolico, who was Pleasant Grove’s first football coach and spent a few seasons at Sheldon, says these recent decisions which seem to overturn rules on recruiting other school’s players have made it difficult for the Section office to manage now.

“From a Section office perspective, this sounds like the worst possible thing they can imagine, as far as a free-for-all for kids to do whatever they want - and it is a terrible idea,” Cattolico said. “Basically there’s a part of me that wonders realistically we are sort of now there, whether we want to be or not…it’s now beginning to look like college football in a way, but realistically we really don’t want it to look like college football.”

He was referring to the NCAA Transfer Portal which now allows college players to make themselves available to other colleges annually.

“Deion Sanders basically rebuilt (University of) Colorado through the portal,” Cattolico cited.

Cattolico believes Bylaw 510 needs to remain in place and enforced despite these recent decisions.

“Schools shouldn’t be out there asking to come play for us,” he said.

Two games to go in 2023 season

Grant plays at Monterey Trail Friday and next week plays Laguna Creek in games that will determine this season’s Metro Conference championship. No one at those Elk Grove Unified schools wanted to comment at this time on the Green ruling and its possible effects for future rulings.

Nixon says, in reflecting on the situation, his issue is with Grant football not necessarily Green departing Sheldon.

“It’s about looking at myself and saying, ‘If I had another player in my locker room from another school who was not enrolled at Sheldon High School, I don’t know how much longer I would be allowed to coach’,” Nixon said. “I would have guessed there would have been some sort of sanction against a school for the evidence presented to them, but I guess obviously not. That part of it is mind-boggling.”


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

If the playoffs started today ...

We're down to the final two weeks of the regular season for high school football. The only local teams eliminated from the post-season are Franklin, Florin and Valley. The others have a chance of making the playoffs. We explain that HERE.  in a post from the Elk Grove Citizen.

I have been quite busy during this transition from Valley Oak Press' ownership of the Citizen to Messenger Publishing Group. The new-look Friday newspaper seems to be getting some nice reviews from readers, albeit items like Elizabeth Pinkerton's column and our history feature looking back at this week 70, 50, 30 years ago, etc. are now missing. A few readers have made mention about that.

If you've noticed the Citizen Sports actually starts on the back page of the weekly newspaper and goes inside a couple pages. That's just a unique and different look. A couple of my college interns have done some nice work recently and their stories have been in the past two issues.

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the print Citizen at newsstands on Thursdays and Fridays. Go into one of our local grocery stores or drug stores. Better yet, subscribe and you'll get a copy mailed to you weekly. Phone 916-685-5533.

I would ask all old timers in Elk Grove to give Paul Scholl, our new publisher, a chance to establish his system over the next several months. I will say that he's even going around Elk Grove delivering newspapers in some neighborhoods just to get the Citizen in people's hands..